Many employees struggle to strike a balance between the daily obligations of their role and the need to be proficient at their work. It’s why learning is becoming more accessible and integrated into daily work routines.
Recent changes in organizational approaches towards L&D have surfaced the need and benefits of “learning in the flow of work.” We examine how learning has developed via a historical lens and its current role in organizational development.
What is learning in the flow of work?
Learning in the flow of work, or LIFOW, means acquiring knowledge about a task, while you're completing it. The idea was originally introduced by industry veteran Josh Bersin in 2018.
According to Bersin, workplace learning has already gone through four phases of evolution:
- Talent management
- Continuous learning
- Digital learning
Learning has now entered a fifth phase, where workers get access to digitized training integrated with their work. For instance, a new sales employee is given access to tutorials on their phone, so they can learn tasks like completing returns and making bills on the job.
Research shows that employees who are learning in the flow of work are half as likely to be stressed, almost 40% more likely to feel productive and prepared to take on more responsibility. In terms of employee retention, businesses that have a strong learning culture reported a 30-50% increase in retention rates.
What does learning in the flow of work mean in practice?
Learning in the flow of work might sound enticing, but what does it really mean for your employees? Learning in the flow helps you eliminate the main barriers to workplace learning, such as scheduling learning, cluttered resources, and work disruptions.
As surveys show, employees spend as much as 25% of their working time per year finding the information they need for their jobs, translating to a loss of almost a quarter of the organization's total productive output every year.
Take a customer support employee, for example. Let's say you've added a few features to your product. Traditionally, the product team would compile a presentation or video detailing what the features are, how to troubleshoot problems with the features, and common issues customers might face with the new features. You would then ask customer support reps to stay updated on the new features and be prepared to answer any queries regarding these.
Your reps will either have to spend their personal time soaking in the new knowledge or take some time off their regular duties to learn. If they fail to do so, they might end up clueless in front of the customer, delivering a subpar experience.
To avoid such scenarios, adopt learning in the flow of work. Make information about new updates and features available to reps in the form of bite-sized videos or modules, so they can quickly look them up even with customers on call. This way, reps learn about your product while also troubleshooting queries. Win-win for both of you.
Benefits of learning in the flow of work for organizations
LIFOW provides employees with tailored resources at the appropriate time. It saves employee training time, keeps employees engaged, and boosts productivity.
Let's take a detailed look at five important benefits employees and organizations can gain by integrating learning into day-to-day tasks:
LIFOW provides employees opportunities to advance their knowledge and abilities while at work. As employees become more competent at their work, they're likely to experience higher levels of engagement. Such learning opportunities also keep employees invested in their professional growth and development.
Improved knowledge retention
Newly learned knowledge is retained more effectively when the knowledge is applied immediately. With LIFOW, information is learned right before applying it which helps to internalize the material effectively. The more employees practice their newly gained skills, the more likely they are to remember the steps of a task.
LIFOW enables ongoing skill development alongside employees' daily workflows, as opposed to yanking them away from their work for lengthy training sessions. With this strategy, learning becomes an organic and essential component of their work, which boosts productivity and efficiency.
Since the knowledge for completing a task is available as and when needed, employees spend less time researching that material again thus increasing their output.
Research suggests that more than 50% of employees have difficulty finding the correct information they need to do their job. Implementing an efficient LIFOW program would help address this issue and boost productivity.
Learning in the flow of work provides employees with the opportunity to address challenges and find solutions in real-time. Instead of seeking external guidance or waiting for formal training sessions, individuals use available resources to overcome obstacles and learn from their experiences on the spot.
Integrating learning into the flow of work eliminates the need for separate training sessions, reducing costs associated with employee training.
To take up additional training sessions, employees would have to spend time after work, which can burn them out. Or they would have to take time off their regular duties to attend training. In this case, their regular work output suffers. In both scenarios, the company would incur additional costs, whether from employee dissatisfaction or reduced output. LIFOW eliminates these additional training costs.
Is learning in the flow of work an effective training strategy?
Yes, LIFOW can be extremely effective, especially when combined with mentoring programs. To understand this in detail, let's look at the key challenges that traditional L&D programs face in organizations today and if LIFOW can help tackle these issues.
Employees are typically asked to put in a significant amount of their personal time, while completing usual work responsibilities during training. With LIFOW, employees can dispense their day-to-day responsibilities while learning and thus avoid burnout.
If training takes place outside the organization, it can be a challenge to translate what is learnt into actual workplace scenarios. With LIFOW, employees find information about a specific problem and implement it on the spot. If the problem persists, a quick response from the mentor could help solve the issue. This means that whatever is learned is useful immediately and translates directly to the workplace.
Pre-recorded videos and webinars often leave it to the employee to understand relevant parts of the training and implement it. This problem is eliminated with the use of LIFOW.
Check out our 5-step guide on how to start a mentoring program. It also includes a free checklist.
Best practices for implementing learning in the flow of work
To implement LIFOW effectively, plan in advance, execute thoughtfully, and get buy-in from relevant stakeholders.
Here are five best practices to consider when adopting LIFOW:
Identify relevant skills and knowledge gaps
Before implementing LIFOW, identify specific skills your employees need to master and knowledge gaps. Create frameworks or checklists of required skills and knowledge for each role within the organization.
Then, conduct comprehensive assessments of employees to understand which skills you need to train for. This should provide you with a fair understanding of the type of resources you need to develop for employees.
Integrate modern technologies into daily workflows
To seamlessly incorporate learning into employees' workflow, organizations should integrate learning tools into employees' day-to-day tools. Tools like digital adoption platforms can help you provide learning-in-the-moment opportunities. Digital adoption platforms help you add pop-ups, walkthroughs, and quick tips to existing tools to help employees use them better.
When choosing digital adoption platforms, ensure they're user-friendly and easily accessible for employees. Choose a platform that allows you to add varied content like short videos, walkthroughs, and short interactive quizzes.
You can also provide employees access to easily searchable FAQ or Help pages. On such forums, employees can share common issues, get quick responses, and exchange knowledge. Chat apps like Slack also allow you to link your internal knowledge base, so employees can quickly find relevant info.
Encourage mentorship and coaching
Facilitate mentorship programs or coaching opportunities where experienced employees can guide and support their colleagues in their learning journey.
With the support of mentors, employees can get timely feedback on specific tasks and constructive criticism too. For instance, you can ask experienced support employees to work with new recruits for a month or two. This way, even as the new employee learns the ropes via LIFOW, the more experienced employee can provide feedback on their tone of talking, method of finding answers, and so on.
Practical examples of learning in the flow of work
Let's take a look at what learning in the flow of work means for your organization in practice:
New writer onboarding
To onboard new writers for your marketing team, use templates that writers can make copies of and use for their own pieces. Create a master document that includes the template writers need to follow while creating a new piece. Leave comments and pointers writers can use in their work in this master document.
Allow writers to make a copy of this template, so they don't have to start from scratch. This way, writers are learning the ropes while also getting work done. Create a quick database for writers to look up with common FAQs, research reports, and so on, so they can work better.
To train sales reps, create quick, bite-sized videos explaining key concepts, instead of hours long training sessions. Sales reps should be able to refer to these videos just before a client call, or in between meetings to brush up their knowledge. Also, provide real life examples of how reps closed important accounts, benefits pitched, and challenges addressed.
Categorize training based on type of customer, size of account, and products requested. This way, reps can easily search for relevant information as they send an email or prepare a client presentation.
Enhance learning and create a continuous learning culture with Together
Learning in the flow of work can help employees learn new skills, but to make it a consistent and organized process, they need the support of a mentor.
A mentor can provide them with helpful advice on their performance that can only be given with years of experience. Mentors can share secrets of the trade that supplement the knowledge gained from courses and videos.
Together Mentoring software is a mentorship platform that empowers your organization to drive performance through relationships.